HINDSIGHT’S 2020 

On-field, Collingwood’s season was satisfactory. They won an Elimination Final no one gave them a chance of walking away victors from (West Coast at Optus), while unearthing a talent like Daicos and overseeing defenders in Darcy Moore and Brayden Maynard taking their games to the next level with 40-man All-Australian squad honours (with Moore making the final side). Pendlebury knocked down milestone after milestone and looked typically evergreen, while Elliott showed he can mix it with the big boys in the guts. Satisfactory.

Off-field, I’m searching for the most eloquent and succinct phrase to sum up Collingwood’s 2020. “Titanic-like” would be underplaying it, “clusterfuck” trivialises it. “Gross incompetence across the board” doesn’t acknowledge the severity, while “trainwreck” is disrespectful to actual train accidents.

The SS Collingwood setting sail in 2020.

Where do we start? Losing (not one, not two, but) 3 young stars in the trade period for less than nothing was catastrophic. Reports of internal backstabbing and mental health-shaming during the Treloar saga wasn’t much better than the obviously obliterated salary cap they were trying to cover up. The man that caused the bloated TTP issue in Beams failed to play a single game while Collingwood were forced to keep dropping $ in his bank account – a trade that shouldn’t have even happened with the stink of off-field addiction issues surrounding him and their lack of need for another top-line midfielder anyway. Paying Treloar $1.5m to play for another club would be comical if it wasn’t so demoralising. Add in serious sexual assault allegations against one of their best players in De Goey (who couldn’t even find a suitor in free agency after his year, losing 6 figures on his contract) and being found guilty of systemic racism – it’s hard to even conceive a worse year for both a club’s reputation and on-field prospects. 

Deep breath.

While his hands might be understandably full trying to improve Collingwood’s culture, it’d be remiss of Nathan Buckley to ignore their forward 50 woes. The Pies clunked the 2nd-least marks inside 50 last year, which capped them at 13th for offense despite all the advantages they gained through their elite defensive and midfield units. This has been a glaring hole in Collingwood’s list for years – since Travis Cloke’s tenure, to be honest – so don’t hold your breath that it’ll be addressed this year. 

Until then, enjoy the needlessly-high fantasy numbers by prioritising Pies in your DFS line-ups once again!

 

MUSICAL CHAIRS

OUTS 

Treloar, Phillips, Stephenson, Bosenvulagi [trades, free agency]
Beams, Dunn, Langdon, Reid, Varcoe [retired]
Appleby, Broomhead, Scharenberg, Wills [delisted]

INS 

Nil.

The word “nil” kind of sums it up, doesn’t it? Like rats abandoning a sinking ship (there’s that Titanic reference again).

Collingwood’s midfield has chinks in the armor for the first time in 15 years, but Ned Guy and his back-breaking spin would say it just gives younger players the chance they need to grow. Or something. Daicos, the elusive Sier, the Brown brothers and perhaps a couple of draftees (more below) will be expected to contribute in the middle third of the ground this year. 

Stephenson’s salary dump compounds the issues with Collingwood’s limited small forward stocks, while Ben Reid’s retirement leaves their marking forward inventory thinner than his hairline.

But hey, at least Beams is off the books!

 

FRESH MEAT

#17 Oliver Henry – F/D – 52 avg from 62 games in 2019 NAB League

A genuine swingman, the lack of forward options at Collingwood dictates that Oliver will likely kick off his career carving out a name for himself in attack. The brother of Geelong defender Jack Henry is known for his aerial prowess, another attribute that will help out his new club in an area of need. With Stephenson gone and the Pies trying to force Hoskin-Elliott into that stay-at-home medium forward role (or playing Ruscoe above his weight division), I’d be surprised if Henry didn’t debut in 2021.

#19 Finlay Macrae – M – 69 avg from 7 games in 2019 NAB League

The half-brother of DFS sweetheart Jack Macrae, he was destined to attract fantasy fanfare before the 2021 season kicked off, but early reports out of Collingwood suggests that he’s rising to meet the hype. More classy than speedy, Finlay will be right at home under Pendlebury’s tutelage as an accumulator, both on the inside and outside. The Pies have sustained serious midfield losses this off-season, so in unlike basically any season in the last decade, Macrae has a red hot chance of an early debut onball for the fantasy-friendly club. AFL journalist Mitch Cleary agrees, tweeting out simply “Finlay Macrae is ready to play AFL Round 1”. Don’t be put off by his modest junior numbers – those were won as a bottom-ager playing across half forward before COVID-19 derailed his primary draft year. Potentially the most DFS-relevant player from this year’s draft. 

#23 Reef McInnes – M/F – 64 avg from 12 games in 2019 NAB League

Fated to be a Pie as a member of their NGA (Next Generation Academy), Collingwood paid less for Reef than they probably should have by matching the late GWS bid with their 3rd live pick. McInness is touted as an inside midfielder of the future but has played every position under the sun as part of his draft résumé, which highlights his versatility and bolsters his 2021 debut prospects. Unfortunately, a nasty finger tendon injury during the pre-season dictates that it’ll come sooner rather than later for McInnes, and likely in the forward line to start with. 

#30 Caleb Poulter – M/F – 106 avg from 12 games in SANFL U/18’s

Unlike the Victorians above him, Poulter was actually able to play out his top-aged draft year and you can see that from the huge numbers (25 touches, 5 marks, 5 tackles) he generated in the U/18’s in 2020. A big-bodied midfielder at 192cm and blessed with a long, flowing mullet, Poulter will quickly become a fan favourite and cult figure in his rookie season at Collingwood. Expect him to debut as a half forward at some stage in 2021, and make sure he’s in your DFS line-ups when he does. 

#31 Liam McMahon – F – 45 avg from 15 games in 2019 NAB League

Another draftee who missed out on his top-aged year, McMahon is more of a long-term investment than those taken before him by the Pies on draft night. Noted by recruiters as a fast learner, McMahon’s leap and marking ability coupled with Collingwood’s thin forward stocks leaves him as an outside chance to feature this year… but not in our DFS line-ups, either way. 

#44 Beau McCreery – F – 54 avg from 15 games in SANFL

With Josh Thomas the only genuine small forward left on Collingwood’s list, they went out and snaffled up dedicated crumber McCreery with their last pick of the night. The 19 year old played seniors in the SANFL last year and, while you’d have liked to see more than 0.6 goals a game from him, he fills a need for the Pies with both his speed and specialised position. In a race with fellow draftee Henry for Stephenson’s vacant spot, but certainly not the frontrunner. 

Rookie #13 Jack Ginnivan – F

A project player with great potential, but it’s equally likely that it won’t click for Ginnivan in terms of midfield development and work rate with his poor defensive pressure. Unlikely to feature in 2021. 

Rookie #28 Isaac Chugg – D

A pun-loving sub-editors dream, Chugg has taken massive strides internally at Collingwood since his arrival, with some saying he’s even a chance for Round 1. Training as a half-back this pre-season, Chugg could find his niche the same way as teammate Maynard started out his career – as a fearless small defender rather than an accumulator (which the Pies have plenty of). One to track. 

 

STYLE POINTS

The midfield supremacy was real. Collingwood ranked 1st in disposals per game in 2020, a title they have held for 3 straight years (plus 2nd in 2017). This includes being 1st for uncontested and 2nd for contested possessions, so there’s no discrimination between how they win in it. 

Disposing of it was a whole other thing, moving the ball far more by hand than by foot compared to the rest of the competition, posting the 2nd-lowest Kick:Handball ratio behind the Bulldogs. This was a big catalyst for boasting 4 players in the top 20 for disposals per game (Treloar, Sidebottom, Pendlebury and Adams), the only team to have more than 2 on that list.

That was basically just two paragraphs that could be summed up by saying “just stack the Collingwood midfield”. 

For all their midfield numbers offensively, they didn’t stop opposition sides racking up going the other way. Collingwood conceded the most marks in 2020, highlighting their lack of midfield accountability and pressure. In fact, Collingwood conceded the 2nd-most points to elite MID’s (defined as top two opposition midfielders) behind only defensive basketcases and wooden spooners in the Crows.

So I’ll amend the previous summation: “just stack Collingwood games” was a lucrative strategy in 2020.  

 

DEPTH CHART

5 IN FOCUS

1. Taylor Adams

Often spouted amongst other purely anecdotal evidence in the fantasy community, this is one that the stats back up – over the last 3 years, Taylor is 14 points better off without Treloar alongside him. It’s hard to overestimate the value of being the number 1 option – no more sharing the ball, no more running to the same spots as another bloke, no more languishing on a half forward flank. This is Adams’ time to shine.

Another cause for optimism is his improved durability last year. While the saying “everyone is durable until they’re not” is genuinely good advice, crossing your fingers and hoping for an uninterrupted year for Tay is a profitable exercise. That’s because continuity is vital for him; he played every game in 2020 for an adjusted 114.4, which is almost identical to the only other time in his career where he’s played every game – that massive 114.6 he pumped out back in 2017. 

Look at Adams as a pay-up option in DFS for both cash and GPP’s this year – his 12 scores over (an adjusted) 112 last season was matched only by Lachie Neale and Jack Steele.

2. Jack Crisp

Let’s talk about Crisp the defender first. He’s been a DFS target for a few years now, with very few DEF’s boasting the same ceiling as Steak Knives. His 5 scores over 110 in 2018 improved again to 7 such scores in 2019, while his 3 efforts in last year’s shortened Covid season is nothing to sneeze at either. It was actually a bit of a lukewarm year for Crisp – that is, until he clicked into gear and churned on an adjusted 129 in the last month of the season (including scores of 145 and 151) and broke DFS slates like glow sticks. 

Now let’s talk about the potential for midfield time for Crisp this year. He’s had plenty of cameos through the guts over the past two seasons, and the numbers are delicious – a 94 average across 3 games with midfield time in 2020, preceded by the 105 over 5 games in 2019. But a deep dive into a random article on Collingwood’s own website called him a “consistent midfielder” – is that a hint as to his role in 2021? Or am I doing the fantasy equivalent of analysing star signs?

But it makes sense. In the Depth Chart above, I was bending over backwards trying to fit both Noble and Quaynor into the same side – this would solve that dilemma. Plus, logic says that if he’s copping midfield time over the past two seasons when both Treloar and Phillips were happily at the club, surely that time only increases now that they’re out the door?

3. Jordan De Goey

I want to talk about De Goey mainly to point out a little statistical quirk of his, and why we don’t solely rely on numbers without backing them up with the eye test. If you were looking purely at the stats, you might’ve been disappointed with his output of 72 AF over the first 5 rounds last year, despite his hefty 62% CBA presence over that span. 

In this case, those CBA’s are misleading. He was utilised solely as a centre bounce specialist in 2020, thrown in for the restart stoppages – but once the ball cleared the area, he pushed forward to fulfill his regular mid-sized forward role. Which Collingwood sorely needed from him, by the way, given their lack of firepower up forward and goalsneak Jamie Elliott already cosplaying as an inside midfielder himself. 

Despite all that, De Goey has been training with the midfield group this pre-season. The off-season shitshow has provided him with the best chance he’s had in years to move into the guts and finally fulfill his promise – not unlike Dusty before him, with whom De Goey is cut from the same cloth – and it hinges solely on his body. Which looked promising; the AFL media was littered with “more midfield time” and “burning up the track” articles and tweets… before it didn’t, as De Goey strained an abdominal muscle and missed a fortnight of crucial pre-season training.

There’s fantasy upside with Jordy, averaging 84 AF in 2019 as that focal point up forward. If his body allows it, if he can spend even 50% of his time roaming between the arcs, that average would be blown out of the water. But with De Goey’s pockmarked injury history, that’s a big if. 

4. Brodie Grundy

Brodie’s 2020 can be put down to a hatred of the hub, and Bucks confirmed as much in a post-season interview. The numbers back up that assertion, averaging a juicy 128 in Victoria compared to “just” 110 interstate (and given that the numbers were almost reversed in previous seasons, blaming the hub is an extremely convincing narrative). 

What does that mean for us in DFS? Well, you’ll get a discounted Grundy for the first month or so of the season, and I suggest that you take full advantage of it. Collingwood faces off with the Western Bulldogs in Round 1, where Grundy’s last 4 scores against Tim English reads 124, 153, 168 and 143. 

5. Josh Daicos

I have a dangerously large man-crush on this kid. Just watching Daicos play you can see he’s a seriously talented footballer – not as an athlete necessarily, as many draftees these days are; but touch and smarts and skill and composure ooze from his pores. With all those traits, you might’ve been excused for thinking he was destined to be a small forward like his old man, nicknamed the Macedonian Marvel for his feats around the sticks. I certainly did. 

Except when Daicos broke out in a big way in 2020, averaging an adjusted 87, it was on a wing. 

But hang on, is there another jump in store for him? With Treloar, Wills, Phillips and Stephenson vacating the premises, there’s room for sideways (to the inside group) or upwards (first-choice wingman) career growth. Once again, AFL journalist Mitch Cleary has chimed in positively, tweeting that he “Couldn’t have been more impressed by Josh Daicos in Collingwood match sim today. Played as a pure mid, looks fitter again and can rise further on 2020 breakout”. 

Take. My. Money. 

Rapidfire Bullets:

  • Love the bounce that Noble and Quaynor provide off half-back. There’ll definitely be weeks this year where they’re affordably-priced and walking into a soft DEF match-up. Guys like these win you slates. 
  • Maynard graduated from nasty lock-down defender to rebounding threat, bumping his average from 77 to an adjusted 94 this year. Even outplayed a known commodity in Crisp for most of the season in the same position. Ceiling pick for GPP’s. 
  • Jeremy Howe has averaged 89 over his last 10 AFL games, but it’s a big ask for him to return from a PCL straight back into All-Australian form. Collingwood missed his elite intercept marking skills and will likely ease him back in with that familiar role. Scales off marks, so very match-up dependent, and definitely worth the salary in positive match-ups.
  • The Pies like to play one behind the ball to allow Howe to fly for marks unopposed, and Mayne is often that “extra” as a backman or defensive wingman. His role changes more often than my undies, and some are more potent than others, so take special care when deciding on his exposures each week.
  • Pendlebury once explained on The Jock and Journo podcast the huge respect he has for Sidebottom and how he’s had to sacrifice his own numbers and preferred inside role to play on the wing in a stacked Collingwood midfield the past few years. Well, it’s not stacked anymore, so I’m excited to see what Sidey can do with a switch to the coalface (assuming the Pies go down that route). 
  • The Brown brothers both had their moments in 2020 when given midfield time, and you can only assume that increases this year. Consistency of role is the issue, otherwise you’re just taking DFS potshots at Tyler and Callum all season-long. Monitor closely.
  • Elliott averaged the 3rd-most CBA’s of Collingwood’s midfielders last year, so they’re serious about the speed he adds to their stoppage mix. It’s a bit of a false-positive in a way though, because he only managed to average 71 AF with all that midfield time invested – he’s just not an accumulator. Yet. 
  • Hoskin-Elliott had zero consistency with his role last year, playing on a wing, up forward as a marking threat and even chopping out in defence. He’s a slate winner when he’s allowed to rack up the marks, averaging 93 when hitting 7+ grabs in 2020. Track his role – there’s a wing spot free.
  • Greenwood’s an interesting DFS prospect. I think Collingwood would be happy with how they’re going if he wasn’t getting a game – ideally, he’s just depth and the kids are ticking along nicely. But if he does get picked, make sure you consider his role long and hard – he’s played as a hybrid M/F, an inside midfielder, a tagger and a lockdown defender over the past couple of years. 

 

Thanks to Morts at DFS Australia for his all awesome tools, plus websites such as FanFooty, DT Talk/The Traders, Footywire, AFL Tables, Draft Central, AFL Ratings, Daily Fantasy Rankings, @Baked_Beams on Twitter and DT Live for their various stats and references.

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